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The fastest growing segment of people entering the sport of triathlon is men and women over the age of 40. The designation “triathlete” is no longer just the college student or 20-something single, but includes dads and moms in the thick of their careers and raising 2 or 3 kids.
Balancing the time and energy demands of the sport of triathlon with family life can be a challenge.
One way triathletes are doing this is by specifically choosing triathlon events that can be turned into a family vacation.
What follows are some tips for turning your next triathlon event into a family vacation.
In order to pull off a family triathlon vacation, it helps to be an experienced triathlete.
Normally, it doesn’t work well for a new or inexperienced triathlete.
Here’s why: Newbie triathletes don’t yet have a comfort level or workable routine for triathlon training and competition to truly relax and enjoy the family vacationing aspects of a triathlon trip. The tri newbie will be mentally consumed with all things triathlon and will not be able to fully engage and enjoy other aspects of the trip.
Triathlon Vacations For Newbies
Let’s say a newbie triathlete decides to do a triathlon in Florida near Orlando and has the idea of turning it into a Disney family vacation.
The family shows up on Thursday evening.
All day Friday, you are mentally consumed with the triathlon. You are walking around in the Magic Kingdom wondering if you are going to get worn out standing in long lines. You can’t find good pre-race food items to eat. You are caught up in all the details of the next day’s race. You are there at Disney with your family, but you are really not there at all.
All day Saturday, you are involved in the triathlon itself. By the time you drive to the location, get there early, do the triathlon and all the post-race stuff, and return to your hotel, the day is shot. The kids are whining, “We came to Disney for this?! We want to see Mickey and swim in the pool!”
All day Sunday, you are dealing with post-race soreness and recovery issues, walking around quite gingerly at Animal Kingdom, and hearing, “Come on dad! Hurry, the show starts in 2 minutes!!”
On Monday, it’s time to pack up and head to the airport to return home.
Triathlon Vacations For More Advanced Triathletes
The more experience you have as a triathlete, the easier it will be to lay aside your triathlon involvement in order to focus, engage, and truly enjoy the other aspects of a triathlon trip meant to also be a vacation.
After you’ve done several triathlons, you have a comfort level about how it works, and a well-perfected routine to pull it off. With experience, you plan better and make all the necessary adjustments to minimize your triathlon’s impact on the days before and after the event.
If at all possible, it would have made a big difference if you had already once done that Florida triathlon, and then made it a vacation the next time around. That way, your comfort level is even higher because of your previous experience doing it.
Turning Your Triathlon Event Into A Family Vacation
You have to be realistic with the fact that your triathlon is a big part of your vacation trip. Talk it through with your spouse and kids so there are no surprises on the trip itself. Discuss the schedule and other factors that are pertinent in terms of how the triathlon will impact aspects of the vacation.
Plan ahead and pack well.
It makes sense to have a triathlon bag or piece of luggage where you pack all your gear and sports nutrition items. Go over your checklist several times to be sure you packed everything you need. Print all your relevant triathlon event information, including directions to the event. Make sure you have a hard copy of relevant information and documents, in case you have computer or Internet access issues while on the road.
Make the triathlon fun.
The triathlon event doesn’t have to be the “bad guy.” Have the mentality of making it an experience that will be fun for the whole family. For example, why not have family members sign up to be volunteers who are helping with the race. That way everyone has something to do and a way to get involved. If it’s a long race like a half Ironman or Ironman, perhaps have your family see you start the race, but then let them go off and do something else fun for the day, and return later.
Don’t try to be Superman.
The timing for post-race soreness varies for different people. For some triathletes, the day after isn’t the worst part but 2 days after is. One suggestion is to allow for a late morning start on vacation activities the day after the race. In the Disney example, this might mean spending a half day at the resort hanging out at the pool and taking it easy, and then resuming other vacation activities in the afternoon.
How To Transport Your Bike
One of the most significant issues related to a triathlon vacation is how to transport your bike.
If you are driving to the destination, you obviously use your bike rack. Be aware that some bike racks work fine for occasionally hauling your bike around where you live, but wouldn’t work so well for a major trip. Investigate the options, and make sure you have an appropriate bike rack for long-distance transport.
If you are flying, there are 2 options:
- Disassemble and pack your bike yourself as a piece of check-in luggage; or
- Use a service that will do this for you.
Option 1: Doing It Yourself
This option involves disassembling and packing your bike yourself. You start with a good bike case. If you travel a lot you should buy one. If you don’t, go to your local bike shop and see if you can rent one. There’s a right way to pack your bike. When you open up the case, you will see 3 layers of foam. You sandwich the bike and wheels between the layers of foam. To fit the bike into the case, you will have to remove the wheels, aero bars, seat, and the pedals. You will also need to loosen the handlebars so that they can fold under the frame. Once you get the bike itself packed, you can also pack your tools, bike helmet, empty water bottles, etc. in with the bike.
Option 2: Use A Bike Transport Service
For example, TriBike Transport is a service that will transport your bike for you. You drop off your bike fully assembled, at one of their partner bike shops before you leave for your triathlon destination and pick it up — ready to ride — before your race. Your bike is never disassembled or packed in a case. After your race, you drop it off at the same location the same evening or the next morning, and they get it back to your local shop for you to pick up at after you get home.
Do due diligence and investigate both options and compare costs. The cheapest option may not necessarily be the best option for you.
Best Triathlon Vacation Destinations
In terms of the best triathlon vacation destinations, there are a few ways to determine this:
1. Decide first where you want to go on vacation and investigate nearby triathlon events. For example, do you want a beach/ocean vacation or a mountain/lake vacation? Are you interested in a Southern California vacation or a Bar Harbor, Maine vacation? Obviously, your related triathlon event choice will not affect where you go but when you go.
2. Decide what triathlon you want to do, and build your vacation around that triathlon destination. Admittedly, this may be easier in some locations than others.
3. For the adventurous triathlete, there are plenty of international destinations for triathlon vacations. Canada, the Bahamas, Caribbean Islands, France, Mexico, and New Zealand are just a few of the many international triathlon destinations. You can check online triathlon calendars for USA and international triathlon events.
There’s a lot involved when traveling and vacationing in conjunction with a triathlon event, but with proper planning, it can be a great trip for all involved.
I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons… even ultramarathons.